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IAEA Mission Says Italy Committed to Decommissioning and Waste Management Safety, Sees Areas for Enhancement

2017/31
Rome Italy

Part of the IAEA-led ARTEMIS team and staff from Italian state-owned company SOGIN during a visit to the Garigliano Nuclear Power Plant in southern Italy. (Photo: IAEA)

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Italy is committed to the safe and effective decommissioning of nuclear sites and management of associated radioactive waste, and also noted areas for potential improvement.

The Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS) team concluded a 12-day mission today to review Italy’s programme for decommissioning nuclear facilities and managing radioactive waste. This was the first time the IAEA has conducted its new ARTEMIS review, which was requested by the Government of Italy. Rome-based SOGIN, the state-owned company responsible for the decommissioning and radioactive waste-management programme, hosted the mission.

A pioneer in nuclear power, Italy commissioned its first nuclear power plants in the early 1960s. After the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, Italy phased out nuclear power and for several years has been engaged in decommissioning its four nuclear power reactors and associated nuclear fuel-cycle facilities. Plans for waste management include the development of a National Radioactive Waste Repository for the disposal of low- and medium-level waste and interim storage of high-level waste.

“Italy is going through a challenging period in implementing its nuclear decommissioning strategy,” said ARTEMIS team leader Michel Pieraccini of France, International Development Director at EDF Ciden. “Our recommendations highlight SOGIN’s strengths as well as the value of sharing international best practices.”

ARTEMIS missions provide independent expert opinion and advice, drawn from an international team of specialists convened by the IAEA. Reviews are based on the IAEA safety standards and technical guidance as well as international good practices.

The ARTEMIS team said SOGIN has a sound foundation and capacities in place, and identified several good practices while also making recommendations and suggestions aimed at improving efficiency and reliability in decommissioning. The team also highlighted the need for appropriate commitment on the part of all stakeholders involved in Italy’s decommissioning and waste-management programme.

The team comprised six experts from France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States of America as well as two IAEA staff members. The team held meetings with SOGIN officials at the company’s Rome headquarters and visited the power plants at Latina, Caorso, Garigliano and Trino. They also visited the Trisaia, Saluggia and Casaccia fuel-cycle facilities.

“This was the IAEA’s first peer review of a decommissioning programme on a national scale,” SOGIN President Marco Ricotti said. “The ARTEMIS team members, comprised of top-level international experts from a variety of technical backgrounds, provided us with new perspectives on our activities. At the same time, it helped us recognize that our experiences on decommissioning and waste management can be of assistance to other countries facing similar challenges.”

Christophe Xerri, Director of the IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle, Waste Technology and Research Reactors, said the SOGIN team was well prepared for and transparent in their discussions with the team, which was a key factor in identifying good practices and offering practical recommendations. “Decommissioning is a multi-faceted programme which requires sophisticated project management and effective technological approaches, and also needs to integrate the safe and effective management of radioactive waste arising from these activities,” Xerri said. “I appreciate SOGIN’s confidence in the IAEA in requesting this ARTEMIS mission.”

Good practices identified by the team included:

  • A transparent, well-defined process for developing decommissioning budgets, including a robust and thorough cost-estimating model in line with international best practices.
  • Effective use of proven technologies as well as novel approaches to tackling challenging scenarios;
  • An experienced team that takes a proactive approach to knowledge management and to developing skills and competencies through a “Young Talents” initiative.

Recommendations and suggestions provided by the team included:

  • All Italian stakeholders should assign high priority to the national repository’s siting and completion by 2025 as planned.
  • SOGIN should further enhance its planning and risk-management processes related to uncertainties typical of such complex decommissioning projects.
  • SOGIN should continue to strive to develop innovative solutions to address technical challenges.

The final mission report will be provided to SOGIN in about two months.

About ARTEMIS

ARTEMIS is an integrated expert review service for radioactive waste and spent fuel management, decommissioning and remediation programmes. This service is intended for facility operators and organizations responsible for radioactive waste management, as well as for regulators, national policy makers and other decision makers.